The Advocacy Collaborative unites student voices to drive change

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June 18, 2019

meeting with a senator
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College of Pharmacy students and faculty have been working tirelessly over the past year to advance The Advocacy Collaborative, a Pharmacy Council initiative with the goal of encouraging collaboration across the college to drive advocacy and legislative efforts of student organizations.

The collaborative serves as the common voice for pharmacy student organizations and provides opportunities to participate in conversations with providers pertaining to patient care, as well as interact with community members and legislators to educate the public about the role of the pharmacist. Students Andy Myers, Stephanie Yasechko, and Natalie Hagy, are leading the charge, mentored by Dr. Jen Rodis, assistant dean for outreach and engagement.

students outside statehouseOver the past year, the group has made significant strides. In response to Senate Bill 265, a bill that would formally recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers in Ohio law, the students hosted Senator Matt Dolan, who sponsored and introduced the bill. They showcased the importance of pharmacists by hosting community outreach events at 10 Franklin County libraries, educating the community on safe medication use and providing free blood pressure and diabetes blood glucose tests. They also implemented a letter writing campaign, which encouraged healthcare professionals from across Ohio to write their legislators attesting to the importance of provider status.

“There has been a quick pace of change in healthcare, and pharmacists need to be included as integral members in the conversation,” Rodis said. “With emphasis on team-based approaches and quality-based outcomes, it is imperative that pharmacists are at the table, able to advocate for their profession and contribute to greater patient care.”

After SB 265 passed, the students were left wondering what next? This inspired Myers and Hagy to conduct independent research to assist the college in formulating effective strategies for advocacy.

Myers is working with Drs. Rodis and Julie Legg, director of experiential education, to develop an Advocacy Guide for Ohio pharmacy students. The guide shows step-by-step instructions on how students can impact their profession by meeting with state legislators and includes templates and resources for reaching out to them directly.

“When you are just getting started with advocacy, it can feel daunting,” Myers said. “The goal of this guide is to ease those feelings and help students develop relationships that can further the profession.”

Hagy is researching how pharmacy schools teach political advocacy, conducting a literature review on what the profession thinks of political advocacy, surveying historical impact advocacy has had on the profession and discovering how advocacy is taught. Her hope is to gain insight into the gaps and importance of advocacy in the profession so that higher education can create a more effective advocacy curriculum.

students with leg“Legislation affects healthcare in many ways, and in certain situations, can be completely impractical,” Hagy said. “My goal is to help bridge the gap between legislative and healthcare knowledge to encourage students to engage in conversations that advance our profession.”

As their research moves forward, The Advocacy Collaborative will continue to provide students with the tools they need to make their voices heard in the profession. The group is creating positive conversation around the college, and opportunities for students to brainstorm, lead and get involved in advocacy.

“I see The Advocacy Collaborative becoming a much larger endeavor within the college, with great leadership opportunities for students looking to get involved,” Rodis said. “My hope would be to help integrate advocacy skills into the pharmacy curriculum and promote interprofessional advocacy so that all professionals are practicing at the top of their license.”